In Charlotte Bronte’s Shirley, some character or another eats an oat cake. At some point. As you can see I remember the moment vividly. I do remember that whoever it is takes his or her oat cake with fresh milk–which brings me to my point: can you think of a more nourishing imaginary meal than oat cakes and fresh milk?
Oat cakes were the first things I thought of when I made these scones (I don’t know why I didn’t think of them when making these pancakes, which are total oat cake pancakes that we eat all the time). They are deeply plain, in the best possible way–they taste like oats and butter and not much else. Just sweet enough to convince you they’re not savory, with a few currants for textural interest.
Now I’m going to make (however minorly) public a behavior that I have long exhibited. For years I have boycotted buttermilk.
This would have really disturbed my grandfather, who used to drive hours to buy buttermilk at his favorite dairy. (He’d pour a glass and take a sip and go, “mmm…buttermilk” and smack his lips.) But unless you too like to drink buttermilk by the glass, you end up buying a carton for the half-cup you need for a recipe and then the rest of it sits in the fridge until you do a big clean a month later and you pour it down the drain in horror. I always have plain yogurt and milk on hand, so I just mix those. My boycott is reflected in the recipe.
adapted from 101cookbooks
When I say “white whole-wheat flour” I mean the King Arthur brand. It’s really worth seeking out. If you don’t have it, you can use all purpose, or half AP and half whole-wheat. Also, I subbed agave for the sugar in the recipe, both because I enjoy seeing what sorts of things I can make with it and because I thought the original recipe was a tiny bit too dry. The agave adds just enough moisture to make the dough easy to work with.
In order to ensure the plainness of my scones I dialed the citrus zest way back as well.
1.5 C white whole-wheat flour
1 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 t kosher salt
1 stick cold unsalted butter
1 C oats
1/3 C currants
zest of 1/4 lemon (yes one quarter, is there a problem?)
3 T agave nectar
1/4 C plain yogurt
1/4 C milk
turbinado/Demerara/sugar in the raw for sprinkling
Preheat oven to 350.
In a food processor, pulse the dry ingredients together. Chop the butter into 1 cm cubes and drop them into the flour. Pulse the mixture until the butter gets mixed into the flour and is the size of peas. Transfer the flour and butter mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer. (You can do all this without the heavy machinery. Use a pastry cutter or two knives to cut the butter into the flour, and a big bowl and wooden spoon for the rest. I am lazy, and have sufficient counter space and a dishwasher to support my laziness.)
Add the oats and currants to the bowl. Mix until combined. In a Pyrex measuring cup or a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt, milk, agave nectar, and zest. Add to the dry ingredients and mix just until the dough comes together.
Scrape the dough onto a cutting board that you’ve dusted with a little flour. Form into a vague circle of about 1 inch tall. Sprinkle the top all over with turbinado sugar (a spoonful is enough–you just are adding a little crunch) and gently press the sugar into the dough. Cut into 8 wedges. Transfer the wedges to a baking sheet lined with parchment and bake for 12-18 minutes (mine took 18, both times), until the tops are as golden as you can imagine. Put the sheetpan on a cooling rack but feel free to leave the scones there until they’re cool.
Store in an airtight container. Reheat at 350 for 6-8 minutes to make them crispy again. Eat plain, or with jam, or with jam and clotted cream if for some reason you have it.